It occurs to me that health care is an albatross for Romney, but it's not the only one.
- He's a bad candidate. After raising and spending more money than any other Republican in the race in 2008, he's now confused with John Edwards, despite their looking not too much alike. He hasn't made much of an impression and isn't a national figure. One must conclude that he lacks the sort of charisma usually associated with the presidency. Now, if we had a parliamentary system in this country, he'd probably be an acceptable candidate for prime minister. But we don't have that kind of system.
- He's the wrong sort of Republican candidate. In the post-Eisenhower period, GOP presidential nominees have tended to be more on the plainspoken side of things (as opposed to smooth-talking), have tended to be more utilitarian-looking instead of movie-star handsome, and have tended to be more "gut thinkers" than intellectuals. There are exceptions to this, I suppose, Reagan being an obvious one for the first two conditions and Bush 41 being a possible exception for the third. But there's a reason why there are so few "Kennedyesque" Republican candidates in recent memory, and basically it's because an antigovernment party will naturally gravitate toward antipoliticians, even if they are studied and insincere antipoliticians (like Bush 43). Romney is a politician, not an antipolitician. And I suspect his campaign will be a lot like McCain's was in 2008. I don't think he'll have a significant problem with evangelicals because of his religion, as they'll show up to vote after Fox News yells socialism enough times. But he'll have problems with exciting the base more broadly. He's not one of them, and they won't forget it.
- Tone-deafness. Much has been made of Obama's political jiu-jitsu. Basically, he is able to turn around his opponents' attacks on themselves by subtly baiting them and then acting as though the other side is the aggressor to garner sympathy. It's a classic but difficult political strategy--Nixon was a notable practitioner of it as well. But with Romney, Obama won't even have to put in the effort. If history is any guide, Romney will unleash an incredibly scathing campaign against Obama, perhaps for holding views Romney recently held as well. And, if history is any guide, it won't work. Romney is not an especially nimble politician, and has never really proven able to present himself as the solution to everyone's problems. His establishment air and patrician nature--which he can't attenuate a la Bush 43--are likely to make Obama a far more appealing option, even despite issues with Wall Street and the economy. What would Romney's message even be? Change? Easy enough to turn into a punchline for him. I can just see the ads with two friends talking about Romney, with one saying that he's pro-choice, pro-gay, pro-gun control, good on the environment and immigration reform, and the other guy saying that he heard the opposite, and then the first guy asks which one is running for president, with the announcer saying that that is a good question. He'd be easy enough for Obama to define.
- What would it mean? A Romney loss would basically be as pointless and unproductive as McCain's loss. He would be invariably faulted as being insufficiently conservative, and we'd get another four years of FNC-style mayhem that denies the political space for across-the-aisle deals to be made.
* Keep in mind that Palin getting elected would require her to stow the crazy and put in insane amounts of hard, grinding work for about 22 months. She hasn't even been on the national stage for 22 months and look what's happened already.